A few years back my aunt and uncle were excited to take me out to dinner. They chose a nice Mexican restaurant they thought would be the perfect place since it would be like the food from my past trips to Colombia. Of course the only similarity between Mexican and Colombian food is that the people cooking them both speak Spanish. I am glad my relatives took me to a Mexican restaurant because by and large, Colombian cuisine is unimpressive.
Colombian like to gloat about their most famous dish, the bandeja paisa, as if it were tasty and unique. But beans, rice, a slice of avocado, fried egg, a slab of fried meat, and fried pork are hardly special. Worst of all is the arepa even more tasteless than white rice. With buttle and cheese it can taste alright but as a staple of the typical Colombian meal..ugh.
Next up we have Buñuelos, a fritter. Colombians are especially proud of this snack except in reality its eaten in dozen of other countries. In Colombia they are made of small curd white cheese and formed into doughy balls then fried golden brown. When fresh out of the oil they are really good but otherwise you can forget them.
The oblea is a popular dessert made from 2 thin, crispy cookies. In Colombia they fill them with arrequipe (dulce de leche), shredded cheese, jam, and other treats. It’s a nice dessert, I guess.
Where Colombia shines are its fruit juices. While most are made from packets of concentrated juice some stores make it fresh either with a water or milk base. Guanabana (soursop) in milk is especially tasty but almost none of these fruits are unique to Colombia.
Colombian pastries look outstanding. They are usually created very decoratively but taking that first bite is usually a big let down. Many middle to low end bakeries focus on the appearance rather than the taste so what you end up with is a plate full of whatever cake disappointed you that day.
Here is another version of the bandeja paisa. But even if you are just ordering the normal set lunch you can expect a basic soup, salad, arepa, fries, and slab of unseasoned fried meat.
Now imagine that in most Colombian cities the selection of food is pretty limited. It’s not like America where on one corner is a Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and Italian restaurant. In Colombia it’s a fast food restaurant, set meal restaurant, or pizza shop.